Is it the story that’s a little different from previous superhero movies? Loki, a god from another world, is bent on conquering Earth and it’s up to The Avengers, an unlikely mix of individuals with superpowers or super skills, to save the day. Nope, that is pretty much a standard-issue plot for superhero comics as well as movies. So, what is the twist to “The Avengers”? Wait for it….Joss Whedon!
There are a lot of Joss Whedon moments in this movie. Maybe they’re Whedon/Marvel moments but, still. I like the one where Stark momentarily has his hands on a ginormous alien ship resembling a spinal column. Just before he tosses it over to the Avengers gang to work over, he says, “I’m taking the party over to you.” Once the monster is in sight, Black Widow quips, “That doesn’t look like a party.” Or how about the moment when Captain America, at the height of the crisis, orders two of New York’s finest to secure a perimeter. One cop says, “Why should we take orders from you?” Captain America fights off like a dozen aliens before he can return his attention to the officer. The officer immediately turns on his heal and barks Cap’s orders to the rest of the police force. So, yeah, maybe you don’t want to say this exactly, but I will. The Avengers has been Buffified!
Marvel Comics was able to, one by one, create successful movies for a string of high profile superheroes that would lead to a team-up of these characters, just like in the comics. It is the talent of Joss Whedon that pulls this colossal venture together. As writer and director, Whedon has taken his quirky sensibility from his offbeat creations, like “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” and managed to tweak the superhero genre in just the right places. Okay, there was a misstep with the original “Hulk” but, in this latest Marvel flick, the Hulk steals some of the best scenes! Is that all thanks to Whedon? Well, here’s the thing, Marvel Comics has a long history of having a good sense of humor. They can be quirky in their own way. Whedon’s quirk and Marvel’s quirk found some common ground.
Yeah, in the end, it seems like a true blending of Whedon and Marvel. The Whedon touches are there, sprinkled throughout. You can find them in some of the more elaborate details to the basic plot. And you can definitely find them in the more irreverent attitude. You’d think Tony Stark had all the snarky lines covered already without the help of Whedon. But there are a few times when Robert Downey Jr. does get to kick around more hip humor as when he keeps warning a guy at the command center to stop playing Galaga at his post.
Whedon doesn’t deconstruct willy nilly. The story is very much something that easily gets the Marvel stamp of approval. You’ll find it mostly in the banter and one liners that come up at the right moments. You’ll find the Whedon vibe in the cocky way these guys fight. There’s one scene where one of the heroes is shooting in one direction and looking nonchalant in the opposite direction while still hitting his mark. There’s a hilarious scene that has the Hulk confronting the evil mastermind, Loki, who berates him for daring to take on a god. The Hulk simply bats him around like a ragdoll.
Marvel and Whedon are also very good about tackling the big themes and having characters talk out complex issues. Every evil genius always gets a chance to have their say. In Loki’s case, we get a credible look inside his head when he explains that he just wants to give humans what they really want: to be subjugated. Another example is a beautiful scene between Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. where Bruce Banner is explaining his inner turmoil. He had reached a point where he’d had enough. He took a gun and put it to his mouth and pulled the trigger. But “the other guy” stopped it in time. Stark tells Banner he should take that as a good sign. Banner appreciates the sentiment but asks what good can the Hulk have in store for him. Stark tells him to find out. He might even enjoy it.
What a lot of folks love about Marvel is its gritty realism. This is New York City under attack, not Gotham City. It adds another layer for the viewer to invest in. And there’s some clever plot twists that demand that realism which Whedon and Marvel make pay off. In the end, you couldn’t ask for a better mix of quirk and good old fashioned superhero action.